Here is a story that illustrates exactly the type of work decisions that led to this site. Daniel's article focuses on the lack of empathy in the person who questions his start time. I do think her reaction was unjust and I also think the young heroic Daniel took a physical and emotional beating that is better avoided.

I completely understand the need to continue working on an active problem—especially when all the distractions are gone. But I suspect he probably paid for that hard work in more ways than being insulted by a co-worker.

AuthorKevin McAllister

It didn't work. In frustration you reach for your cup of tea and find only the dregs, long cold. You write another email to your co-workers explaining why the latest attempt at a fix failed. Usually writing it out helps you think of something else to try. Nothing new comes to mind. It goes in the Sent folder next to the other three un-replied-to messages from tonight.

You lean back and close your eyes trying not to think about the call from your boss.

Look, I know it's probably complex and hard but we really don't care about the details, we just need it to work.

Facing a problem alone has never bothered you, but you're not alone are you? Your wife and children are sleeping upstairs. If you can't figure this out and the company collapses, then what happens to them? Certainly not that trip to Disney or the American Girl dolls for Christmas.

Opening your eyes you see it's 2:37 AM. You've got nothing left and sleeping is better than feeling sorry for yourself. Standing, you reach for your mug.

The flash comes.

You're back at the keyboard, leaning forward. You see the connection. You're not sure yet. But you are sure—you've never been more sure of anything. You laugh. It's so simple. You put the patch together and push it to production. It's fixed. You were so stupid not to see it sooner, but that doesn't matter, it only matters that it works. You write your triumphant email. Wired, you sit and watch it work. You finally head to bed after four.

Instead of a hero's greeting when you enter the office you are ushered into a the conference room and grilled about the fix.

What makes you so sure it won't happen again?

You are happy to explain. But no matter how clearly you explain the situation the hostility and uncertaintly remains. A wild thought occurs to you; they seem dissapointed that your fix hasn't retroactively wiped the problem out of existence. You realize again—you don't understand people.

So what is the status of your current project? We'll need to catch that back up.

Current Project? You vaguely remember you were working on something else before the crisis. You promise to give people updates after you get your bearings. You go to your office and sit back and close your eyes, trying not to be annoyed at the idea that you are now behind on your project, or what is meant by "we."

I've been here, more times than I care to think about. This is not a specific story in my life, but it is every heroic work story. An emergency creates clarity by forcing exclusive focus on a single goal. You can learn more about the way your systems work in one crisis than you might in a whole year. And it's exhilirating beyond description to face down the stress of an impossible problem and come up with the answer. But the hard truth is, working this way is a huge mistake. You not only harm yourself, but you have made the company and the the product, which you're willing to bleed for, worse.

Possibly you are that hero or you work at a company with one. Maybe you want to do the heroic things. It's exciting and you get to break all the rules. And you seem to have a limitless supply of the confidence needed to relentlessly seek an answer. But there's a reason you work with other people, and when heroic individual effort is always necessary to stave of disaster it's a symptom of a greater sickness in the company.

Sure it's great to watch superhero movies. But you certainly don't want to live in Gotham City—that place is a real mess. If you are that hero, the best thing you can do is learn how to disconnect the Batphone; it will not only improve your own life, but it's the only chance to save that company and really build something great.

This story will serve as the manifesto for Boldocity. For fifteen years I have strived to become the tragic hero depicted in this story. But recently I have started to understand that working this way is a mistake. The articles I write in the coming weeks will work on illustrating why I've made these claims. Hopefully as I am able to more fully explore the issue through writing I will learn and explain the right way to do heroic work.

AuthorKevin McAllister

I saw a great sign at the Franklin Institute the other day.  It was in the Franklin Food Works, it said, "Please, Step up and help yourself."  (Here's a photo) Some employee was clearly trying to overcome the confusing layout of the place.  But he did more than that, he offered a tremendous life lesson.

Waking up and going about your day should not be drudgery, it should represent the thing you want to do more days than not.  If you find that is not true then, what are you waiting for, figure out why.  There are tons of people out there who will help you learn and cultivate the things you want, then the crucial thing is to make a plan to get there.  And don't let anything stand in your way.  The only way things will change for you is if you change them.  So what I have to say in response to that sign. That's god damn right!

This is all stuff that's been said thousands of times in much better ways than that sign, that movie clip I linked to or this blog post.  But I think it's helpful to have it pointed out in a variety of ways.  It can be surprisingly easy to go numb to things around you if you don't remember how wonderful it is to be alive.

AuthorKevin McAllister

When you're old and curmudgeonly like I am you become set in your ways.  It's hard to believe but some of these ways are wrong.  Your habits are a result of your old thinking and most importantly your old actions.  Since I know everything now, it's conceivable to me that a younger version of me may have made an error in thinking and ended up habitually doing something silly, without thinking, like screwing around with my iPhone at every single spare moment throughout the day.

See what I did there with the bold.

We do things, we make decisions and choices without even considering the options.  Our subconscious not only can provide us with important facts, like all the words to the closing song of Gilligan's Island, it also will bring up complex thoughts like the results of thinking or provide a course of action.  Don't believe me?  Think of the last time you drove a car somewhere and had one of those realizations like, "Holy crap I'm driving a car and not paying attention to where I am or where I'm going!  How did I make it this far?"

Learning anything requires repetition, so does unlearning.  But before you start training yourself what you want to do, like Zippity the Zebra in Man vs. Beast you have to "realize it's a race."  The key there is to set yourself a standing order to notice when you do some physical thing . Go on, put that subconscious to work for you noticing you taking the phone out, or eating that 28th cookie.

Now you are at that crossroads, where you make the choice.  The thing you've done at up until this point over the last 87 times this choice came up, the thing you decided you wanted to change for some reason, will seem very compelling.  It may even seem crazy that you ever wanted to or could change.  Here is where you will need to have thought out the good reasons for why you will change, to overrule the habit and emotional response that is tied into taking that habitual action.  What you want to do here is put yourself in the right frame of mind to realize, that, yes there are actually other things you might want to do besides restock the floors in Tiny Tower.

The way I recently learned and am trying to do that is to have a nice little slogan, "WWID?"  This means, "What Would I Do? Where I, is me heroically taking into account my full hierarchy of values."  This is a pretty general mindset, depending on the particular habit I'm trying to change I may just focus in on that one for a few weeks and have a different slogan to recall in my time of need.

So in summary, I plan to take certain things I don't want to do anymore and notice when I'm doing them so I can wake myself up enough to know, "it's time to make a choice," and then put myself in a heroic frame of mind to make that choice.

AuthorKevin McAllister

As I indicated in a prior post, The game of life, I planned to post updates to help my motivation.  I've learned that my projects go much better when I periodically look objectively at my results thus far and make a conscious decision how to proceed.

I had initially planned an update every 9 days since it just happened that I was 108 days out from my goal when I started and being a geek I couldn't help but see the evenly divided intervals.  But, alas, I have missed not only 99 days but also 90.  We now stand 86 days from my goal and this is my first update.

So from an eating perspective it's been easy, I've been able to avoid all but a very small taste of sweets and all but a very small amount of grains.

I think it was easy because before starting I made an effort to pay attention to how crappy I felt.  How I was tired and always lacking something trying to find it in sugary snacks or in caffeine laden beverages.

And—I think this was stronger motivation—I also made an effort to actually imagine two alternate futures.  One where I now took responsibility for my health and one where I continued to drift eating and acting based on whim or emotion.

The first was me in 20 years, strong and healthy working with my daughters on some sort of outdoor project, maybe helping them build a new garden or shed in one of their homes, but here I was a man of 55 (the same age as my father when he died) doing hard physical work with my shirt off and not inappropriately.  Feeling temporarily winded from a recent extreme exertion and resting for a moment, taking a deep breath and feeling the exhilaration of being alive and reshaping existence to my will and paying with my effort.  And I was just at that moment before I plunge back in and continue at a hard task that will still take another hour or so after which I will enjoy a restful afternoon with good food and surrounded by loved ones.

The second I don't like to think about, but I do anyway.  It was me in 20 years.  I can't really picture myself like I can in the first vision, but I am able "…to guess by hints, to see everything through the greater intensity of implication."1 And in this case I am looking out.  I see myself in the sterile hospital environment.  I am uncomfortable, I've just woken up and have been laying this way for a long time, a few hours, a few weeks? I am just so tired and sore I can barely muster the energy to move.  I finally notice that here again I am surrounded by loved ones.  But this time the looks on their faces are masks of tragedy.  In this imagining I really pictured my daughters as young adults, they were beautiful if they weren't so sad.  I wanted to tell Allison that nothing could be so tragic as to put such a look on her face, and she tried to smile for me when she saw me awake, but the pity there was worse.  And Ashley never one to attempt to hide her emotions wouldn't even smile and was barely able to look at me.  I reached out for them with a tremendous effort and saw the tubes snaking around my arms.  And my arms were thin, flabby and pale.  Then I saw Michelle and it the suffering she was obviously trying to hide from me was more than I could bear.

I didn't bother to fill in details about what particular disease had put me in such a terrible condition.  But to concretize the threats to my future of living a lifestyle where I ignore what I've learned about nutrition has helped my motivation tremendously.

I've diverged a bit from my original intent of this article into that motivation that has made the choice on what to eat easy.  Now to sum up my update.  My two primary measures of the effectiveness of my health sprint are my weight and how I feel energy wise and general comfort level.

Over the past 18 days I've felt great.  I made a great effort to get plenty of sleep, and I can't remember being better rested.  My energy level has been excellent.  I seem to wake up ready to take on the day and keep a more or less constant energy level until the end of the day when I start to get tired and ready for bed.  My creativity level has been high, and my stress level has been low.  I take surprises and emergencies at work well and have been less defensive when criticized or when I perceived criticism.  Also I've been very productive at work and in my personal projects making great strides toward my goals.  Finally I feel stronger.  I've been doing pushups occasionally at work and they've certainly gotten easier to do.

As far as the scale, well that is the millstone, and the challenge or opportunity.  I've only dropped about 2 pounds per the chart software I use.  In the past when I've done this I've dropped weight more rapidly.

HackDiet chart

Based on this I am going to tweak my approach in an attempt to speed things up a bit. My plan is:

  1. Cut out dairy (I got a milk frother for my birthday and have been enjoying tea lattes so for now that will pause)
  2. Go to the gym more often, I am going to target 1 trip every 3 days.

Other than that it's no sugar, no grains as I stated at the outset.  I anticipate feeling great, stronger and being lighter.  I'll plan another update in a few days.

Maybe on 81 days to go.

  1. Borrowing a short quote from my favorite book of all time The Fountainhead.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Another change I've made recently to help with my overall health is to try using a scheduling infrastructure for my day. For about three weeks now I've been using the Pomodoro Technique to plan and track my activity throughout the day. It's improving my productivity and also helping me lose weight. This relates to my physical health in two ways, first if I spend my days full of anxiety about all the things I'm not doing I can never get physically well. Second it makes me do push-ups.

That probably needs an explanation. Pomodoro is a time-boxing technique that guides you to do 25 minutes of highly focused activity followed by a short 5 minute break. In the PDF the author suggests it should be a real break from any thinking about work. I found the transition from a hard thinking task to a state of mental relaxation to be very difficult to pull off, my mind–already warmed up to the topic–would wander back to the problem I was working on. So I decided to do a set of push-ups to help me relax.

So far I've gotten better at pushups, squats, and sit-ups. Oh, and I'm enjoying my productivity based primarily on the structure to my day. It helps me concretize the idea that I can only do so many things in a day and helps me at the hard task of prioritizing my time. It also helps me measure how long I take at certain tasks. Since I chronically underestimate I welcome the opportunity to improve my judgement.

AuthorKevin McAllister

When sacrificing sleep to do important work or play I've often made the remark, "I'll have plenty of time to sleep when I'm dead."  But little did I realize that by not getting adequate sleep I was working to bring that day closer.

I was clued into this fact by the various Paleo resources I've studied over the past few years particularly Robb Wolf's, The Paleo Solution.  So I started paying attention to how I functioned on various levels of sleep.  I learned that I was able to think, act and feel much better when I was well rested.  I remember thinking, "Does anyone else know about this? It is actually possible to walk around with nearly super-human ability simply by consistently getting a full night of sleep!"

Now in my defense, I not only attended college but also have two young children and have worked primarily at technology start-ups throughout my career.  So sleep was scarce in my life and somehow I just had to find a way to get things done.

But it's not super-human, it's regular-human to sleep when tired, wake up well rested and feel alert and energetic during your days.  A good sign of trouble is you need chemicals to wake up and function at all and at bedtime you can't figure out how to fall asleep.

So I failed to mention in my initial post on my plan to win at the game of life that one other thing that is going to help me meet my health goals is to get plenty of glorious sleep. You too should get plenty of sleep tonight, you deserve it!

AuthorKevin McAllister

For a while now I've been trying to do a lot of things and getting many accomplished, but really want some focus on less things that I make tangible progress on.  And so I am looking to set myself some constraints in order to actually get things where I want them to be.  A few vague plans I have are to ship a game this year.  Actually I'd like to ship two games, but I am still floundering in the beginning stages of understanding and putting together a basic 2D OpenGL game engine.  So my plan is to have a rough beta version of something that at least works by my birthday.  Then I can set a new goal for shipping it.  That should help give me some focus.

Also along that front I'm thinking I should blog consistently about the things I do and learn while working on the game so it forces me to really solidify my understanding.

I'd also like to really get my health to a better place.  On Saturday Allison's karate school, East West Karate, had a class for parents of new students to learn a few basics so we can experience some of what they are doing first hand.  It really made me miss my training.  Now I haven't been to the gym or done any serious workout in months so I've been sore now for two days.  But on top of that I've gotten the best nights of sleep that I've had in recent memory due to actually using my body a bit.

So I'm considering joining their adult classes.  As I've already earned a black belt, they would allow me to wear it to their school and help me have an accelerated version of their curriculum.  But I have mixed feelings about that.  I did work hard and earn it, but I am severely out of practice and wouldn't want to embarrass myself or the school who awarded me my black belt by showing up there next week.  Also I'd want to do it only if I really am sure I'm committed to it.  So I'm thinking I'll set myself a target of June to get myself into better shape through a concentrated training program at the gym, and probably 2 or 3 days a week run myself through some exercises trying to recall and practice some of the martial arts skill that I had earned through hard work and let slip away.

Also I have plans to attend a Thinking Directions pilot class in New York City on Saturday from noon — 3, and I'm also very excited about that.  I'll have to see if I know anyone in New York that wants to grab dinner before I catch the NJT back to Trenton.


AuthorKevin McAllister

MobileMe Calendar finally got me past the occasional frustration and issues on my calendar sync solution. They did this by breaking my Rube Goldbergian solution completely and having me setup a much simpler system. My prior solution was like this, Google calendar for my work domain was my main calendar. But when I first got an iPhone there was no two way sync between Google calendar and the iPhone, but I could sync using MobileMe between my phone and my desktop. So I got a piece of software called BusySync (which I later upgraded to BusyCal), this would sync the Google Calendar to my desktop iCal store which would then be synchronized via MobileMe to my phone. And it mostly worked. I had my calendar on the web, on my desktop and on my phone and could make changes in any of those 3 places. Although sometimes it would do weird things and I had to keep BusyCal always running on my work computer to keep everything going.

Recently I unthinkingly upgraded MobileMe to the new Calendar. Which of course broke all of that for various reasons. And this turned out to be the best thing I could do, as now I have a much simpler solution that seems to accomplish the same goals and work more reliably.

Now my phone synchronizes with the Google calendar directly using ActiveSync. And my desktop and laptop BusyCal synchronize with Google calendar directly but only need to be running when I need a calendar there. So MobileMe solved my occasional calendar problems by becoming useless for me.

At this point I'll have to evaluate if there is any point to keeping MobileMe at all or if I can simply use DropBox to keep the other things in sync that MobileMe does for me, and I certainly don't need another email account, or IM account and their iDisk solution is a joke compared to the ease of Dropbox.

Is there any other value to this service I'm missing?

AuthorKevin McAllister
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With a renewed interest in blogging, I decided to try out MarsEdit and came across some Drafts I'd partially written but never published. So I've reformatted this one a bit and you get it now. This was originally started on July 1, 2010. Over the summer I happened upon a small pool of water around my Air conditioner in the basement which immediately began an hours long investigation and repair and left me feeling a bit glad but annoyed.  

I was glad that I was able to identify the cause of the problem and repair it, in only a few hours.  But I was annoyed that my plans for the evening were shot, and I had an ugly and distorted sense that I'm never able to do the things I really want to do, but must always spend my time responding to emergencies that are my duty.  

I know this view is wrong, but over the prior 9 months or so I'd taken on so much more stuff than I ever had before that I had been wavering between resentment against the world at large and anxiety about not being able to achieve my goals.

I think this experience and my response was a big step on my recovery from going crazy. I reminded myself that to accept those thoughts, about never achieving my goals, would bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy.  And I reminded myself to see how the choices I make even in response to the unexpected emergencies are serving the values I want to achieve and keep.

It was at this time that I also realized I'd gotten impatient. And couldn't remember having that problem since I was a wee tyke when I'd get pissed struggling to untie my shoes.

I think by repeatedly reinforcing a view that I should be getting more done than I was, and actually more than was possible was causing me to have an always present sense of impatience and frustration with myself and others.

I had decided that fulfilling my ambitions should be easy and when I couldn't do it I'd damn the universe for being impossible and myself for not succeeding anyway.

In the end I had to challenge the bad premises by comparing them with reality, and clear out those thoughts that had been gumming up my life.

Oh and if your interested about the AC. I took it apart cleaned a bunch of nasty sludge that had accumulated in the drip pan under the coil. And then using an old wire as a snake, dislodged sludge from the upper part of the pipe. Finally hooking up a shop vac to the end of the condensate line and sucked out anything that would come. It worked fine the rest of the summer. And if there is a next time. First thing I'll do is hook up the shop vac.

So, Anyone have recommendations for companies to clean and service HVAC units annually?

AuthorKevin McAllister

The Voices That Matter iPhone Developers conference I went to two weekends ago was awesome, I already wrote too much about a couple of sessions on the second day. But the other point that I really ended up getting out of it was a simple example thrown out by Aaron Hillegas during his keynote. His big pitch was that everyone should move past independence to interdependence. And really find ways to work together to make even better stuff. At the time it struck me as stuff I'd heard forever, but he suggested do code reviews with each other. And for some reason that simple example got me moving, I had already decided to work with Ryan Grier a friend, former co-worker and the only iPhone developer I know personally who has any apps in the store. I am going to integrating my latest app, TargetDate (coming soon to the App Store), with his MyCntdwn on the iPhone so we can share data. So when I was nearly done, I just bundled up my software source and sent it over to him to look at or tear apart or whatever.

He gave me some great feedback. And Just that little experience pushed me into going to the most recent, and really just their second, Ship It Society meeting down at Indy Hall in Philly. I definitely plan to continue going to them and to go to the Philly Cocoaheads meetings as well and try to do something I rarely do, annoy the crap out of everyone with tons of questions.

So, it seems like I actually do like people sometimes.

AuthorKevin McAllister

It's been two weeks since the last update.  I'm happy to report that the Rearden Steelers are 2 - 0 in that time bringing me to 7 - 0.  My wide receivers are carrying me having huge games, and typically I've been helped by my opponent not having a great week.  This past week my opponent The Washington Oppresors scored 97, but I went off with 114.  So it seems my team plays to the level of the competition. So a whirlwind tour of the rest of the league:

Culver City Conmen

Ran into the Buzzsaw of the Rearden Steelers in week 6 and despite the despair of having played me still managed to get 43 points out of Darren McFadden the next week and a win.

Sedalia Sea Monkeys

Diana has been on a tear! Two wins and I think most importantly defeated Paul's Geekpress Generals handily this past weekend.  I imagine that Chez Hsieh was a battleground and it's probably better for Paul that he lost.

GeekPress Generals

Paul has somehow coaxed Greg Jennings into consistent play two weeks in a row, however he managed that he deserves to have won the championship.  Also if I failed to mention it, he lost an epic matchup to Diana.

Dr. Ego Spengler

Mike's team won in week 6, but more importantly he lost in week 7.  Leaving literally nothing on the bench he was crushed by Amy's Gentlemen, who was so confident in her ability to win she taunted her opponent by starting Arian Foster while on a bye and still scored 109 points!

Portland Agents Of Fortune

2 weeks, 2 wins, good team management nothing left on the bench and big scores.  I'm hoping this trend doesn't continue.

KC Money Barons

Got the big first win of the season.  I think Corey has aspirations of going 7 - 6 the hard way.  Considering I'll probably lose my next 6 we can finish the season tied!

Washington Oppressors

Dwayne Bowe showed up!

Connecticut BNS Brawlers

Too many Cincinnati players to win, even if they keep scoring points.  Marvin Lewis has suffered from this problem for years.

Fairport Diehards

Ugh, 79 points left on the bench this week, and a ton last week.  Sometimes fantasy is just like that.

Philadelphia Freeloaders

The last two weeks they've let their opponents score too many points.  Work on it!

Virginia Gentlemen

Amy can't lose a game when she scores over 100 points.  Unfortunately when she scores under 100 she tends to lose by 6 points or less.

Next week

I promise to write stuff going forward on some schedule.  And I suspect it may be somewhat useless but I'll enjoy it, and that's what counts.

AuthorKevin McAllister

I spent the whole past weekend at the Voices That Matter Developers Conference which was hosted in Philly, right in that new glass and steel high rise that is connected to 30th street station. It was awesome.  I think the best part was a dream I've had for most of my life actually looks achievable to me instead of like the thing I'll always wish I'd be able to do.

When I was a youngster my father had a Radio Shack TRS-80 and a cassette drive and somehow had acquired some games on cassette, he may have purchased them or dubbed them from someone in a club, I really have no idea I think I was somewhere between 8 - 10 years old.  I played some of the "You are in a dark cave …." style games.  I tried my hand at writing some in Basic.  They were simplistic and pretty boring, even to me, after I got over the initial thrill of having created them.

Soon after I was given a C64 courtesy of my Uncle Jim.  And I had hundreds of video games on 5-1/4" floppy for it and it was then I started a seed that has been with me for all of my life.  I've always vaguely wanted to make games, but for some reason never took real steps to make any.

I mean I took some steps.  When I had the C64 I bought Gary Kitchen's GameMaker, and went through some of the tutorials but never really committed to figuring it out.  I didn't do much on that front for years, I was quite busy growing up, playing football, reading and really pursuing all sorts of other interests like earning some engineering degrees. But then after college at some point when a company I was working for wasn't very interesting I decided once again to "pursue" video game making as a hobby.  I bought a book on .NET game development—I wasn't going to fall into the trap of doing it in Linux my preferred environment at the time, I knew I couldn't make a living with that.  As I read a bunch of the book, I saw this huge expanse of uncharted territory opening up before me.  It looked hard.  I knew I had lots of other things that were important, and although I told myself this was important, I hadn't really decided that it was.  It was the sort of thing I could do later, like work out or learn to speak Spanish or learn how to play an instrument.  There was a vague floating abstraction in my mind of how it will be when I'm a "game programmer" sort of how people think about how it will be when they win the lottery.

I had that typical mindset of most people who fail at some goal or another.  I wanted buying the book or software to be the hard part.  I wanted the software or book to replace me as the driver on the way to my goal.

Now to cut myself a break, I was achieving other values the right way with me in the drivers seat, all this time.  But at some point I need to either let go of that floating ideal or decide what it really means, if I want it, and how and when I'll get there.

When I started developing for the iPhone I of course thought of games but didn't have any ideas, I looked at how to get that done a bit but I saw this huge undertaking ahead of me, most of it consisted of: understand OpenGL which although confident I could figure it out, was not motivating at all.  The cubes in all the examples don't inspire confidence, neither does the linear algebra that I've more or less forgotten at this point.  And even if I could figure out openGL, I had no idea on how to tie that knowledge into whatever else I didn't know about game programming.  It seemed like I stood on the edge of a vast unexplored wilderness and knowing that if I were committed I could plunge in and build a little industrial town along one of the rivers out there, but also looking at the fact that I given my current pursuits I could hope only to do maybe 8 hours a week on this dream and see that I'd never even have a vague idea what a game should look like (on the inside) for years.  So I plunged in on iPhone program with the idea for ReadingTree, which I never classified as a game, although I guess in some respects it is.  I knew what I wanted and I achieved it to some degree.  Which I thought was just awesome, and still do.  And I've been working on a few other apps in the mean time, having a great time.  But figuring that game programming was something I'd do later, I'd get rich with my other apps, and full time job and then have 5 unbroken years to learn how to do game programming and finally get down to it.

Well thanks primarily to Mike Daley and Rod Strougo my premise of requiring omniscience to become a game programmer has been shattered, as they have pulled aside the first layer of underbrush and shown me a general path toward the promised land of "Game Programming."  And in just a few hours this weekend I cultivated some idea of what game programming would actually be, and more importantly decided that I will be launching a game in the Apple app store for an iOS device near you.

During the first day I, somewhat reluctantly, purchased Mike Daley's book Learning iOS Game Programming.  I didn't want to have another game programming book sitting around collecting dust, but I planned on attending the game programming sessions so figured maybe this was the lottery ticket I'd been waiting for.

Then on the second day in the morning Rod Strougo of Prop Group, LLC gave a great talk on using cocos2d to create games.  He made it seem very achievable and tied the concepts in his talk to a simple example game which he dissected throughout and demonstrated the effects of simple changes.  I left convinced I could do the things he demonstrated and actually package a cocos2d game.

Finally the last session of the day was by Mike Daley, of the blog 71Squared, gave my favorite presentation of all time called Moving to 3D.  The idea was making an OpenGL ES 1.1 app on an iPhone from scratch, so he introduced quite a bit of basics.  He created an app (source available) which put you in the center of a 3D world where you were subject to bombardment by ships flying overhead, you could use the gyroscope in the iPhone 4 to move the phone and change where you were looking in the world.  And tap the screen to fire missiles at your attackers.  His talk was basically an introductory walk through the essentials of making that game, diving into the code, jumping back up into theory when necessary, but only covering the absolute essentials in a way that was accessible to someone who is mostly clueless when it comes to this stuff.

Things that made zero sense to me before were clear.  I obviously know very little more now about actually creating a game, but I had built a conceptual framework of what was essential to know and how to begin learning what I needed to move ahead.  I am now very excited to have purchased his book and was brainstorming game ideas with my wife over breakfast.

I am going to dive into getting my current app finished and into the store as quickly as possible so I can get started on my game.

AuthorKevin McAllister

When I was studying Karate my instructor said to punch someone in the solar plexus (which incidentally I've just learned is actually known as the celiac plexus) would test their will to fight. As a trained fighter you may be confronted by someone who has chosen to attack you due to many superficial factors, and a good solid shot to the solar plexus may help them see the full context of the situation and choose a different course before any irreversible physical damage takes place. I will now ramble a bit about the past year of my life, and will probably tie it all together at the end.

I recently went crazy, and then recovered. Not to belittle the other crazies out there because I wasn't too crazy but I was very stressed out and unhealthy both physically and mentally but able to function fully although not enjoyably due to working through real emotional pain. Which is to say I was in continual internal conflict due to bad premises. The conflict had been building since the end of last summer, and reached unbearable levels sometime in April. At which point, I'm proud to say, I not only took steps to recover but at some level I knew that my crazy was just a problem like any other that had to be understood and corrected.

For now I'll spare the details, although I have been itching to write a bit about them either publicly or privately just so I could have a more thorough reference manual to recovery if I ever make similar mistakes in the future and go crazy again. But it really came down to:

1. Trying to identify the emotional distress. 2. Trying to identify the thoughts leading to the emotional distress. 3. Reality checking those thoughts.

And really it was a set  of contradictions that caused my pain. I was giving myself orders that I knew to be impossible and holding myself accountable for not somehow doing it. Coming to face this and to deal with it has made me think long and hard about this line from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, "All the secret evil you dread to face within you and all the pain you have ever endured, came from your own attempt to evade the fact that A is A."

The good news was I found that I had let some errors creep in and corrected myself, and in many cases when I consciously corrected those errors I experienced immediate relief. And as I continued to be on the lookout for evidence supporting and integrating my new ideas I started to notice that things that bothered me before no longer did.

My primary mistakes had to do with personal expectations of what I should be doing and should be able to do. So I cut myself a break, and decided to conform my expectations to what is actually possible in reality.

The final step was fully committing myself to working on my physical health. I'm currently (since September 7) eating a Paleo diet as outlined in Robb Wolf's excellent book, The Paleo Solution, focusing on getting sleep and usually working out 2 - 3 days or so a week. And this is going very well. I feel good and have lost 17 pounds.

And just have to thank one person: really the best support I had through my crazy was from my wife Michelle.  She kept me sane while I was going crazy.  And has also been doing a great job cooking me good food even though I make everything harder because I think wheat is poison.

So what the hell does all that have to do with the initial paragraph and title? Well all of these changes and revelations happened while I was still busy living a life. This is the idea that is characterized well, albeit malevolently, by a character on The Wire, Lester Freamon, "A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come."  So fixing the subconscious is like changing the tires on a moving car, or performing brain surgery on yourself.  It's hard to know exactly when everything is working right again without drawing some lines and putting it to the test.

So ultimately over the past 3 - 5 weeks I've been confronted by some of the same stressors that in April I would have chosen to freak out or go binge on McDonald's and Cokes and cookies. Some of them were pretty significant stresses.

And looking at them now, the idea that I would freak out about them is laughable. It is as if Professor Lupin had shown me these things are simply Boggarts and I must simply properly perform the "Riddikulus" charm to defeat them.

Thinking to how I would have reacted before is almost like watching a TV show, it's hard to even understand what I thought the problem was.

Sure some are things I'll choose to do or fix, I'll just put them on my list to do or fix and decide when I want to do them. The other things you ask? What other things?

So I'm glad to say I've withstood the test to my resolve, and find it funny that I'd ever taken those other ideas seriously. To actually compare them to a punch to the solar plexus is actually wrong, a better comparison would be a wild haymaker thrown by a drunk that never had hope of hitting the mark. So to quote Atlas Shrugged again to close my post, "Of course I am all right, Professor. I had to be. A is A."

AuthorKevin McAllister
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A timely and per my wife's criticism a bit spiced up recap of the JGL action from week 5. Philadelphia Freeloaders (3-2) 86, Virginia Gentlemen (2-3) 85

In a matchup where Vince Young outscored Matt Schaub by 13 points and Mike Tolbert outscored Arian Foster by 5 points there is no other way for it to end except by being decided by 1 point.  The worst part for Amy, manager of the Gentlemen, is that if she had not started a Defense she would have won the match.  But I agree that the Rams looked to be a great start against the Lions.

Fairport Diehards (3-2) 85, Sedalia Seamonkeys (2-3) 78

And Diana's Seamonkeys get exactly what they want out of Ray Rice, finally, but when your second leading scorer is your Kicker it's hard to finish with the W.  And running into an on-again Chris Johnson and hated (by me) Cowboy QB who was racking up points playing from behind meant that Tom Stone's Diehards took the win.  Both teams can look at the high bench production and play that age old Fantasy football game of second guessing yourself.

Connecticut BNS Brawlers (3-2) 77, GeekPress Generals (3-2) 58

The Brawlers victory gives me the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject and that is me winning fantasy football games.  Because his victory and mine came in lockstep due to the huge day by Malcom Floyd which necessitated a huge day by my QB.  Paul's Generals who have been solid all season, had the typical fantasy week where almost nothing goes right which was capped by Aaron Rodgers going down with a concussion at the end of the game.

Dr. Ego Spengler (4-1) 69, Washington Oppressors (1-4) 53

The good Dr. Spengler led by Mike King has been the most consistent JGLer over the past two years.  But this is ridiculous to get a victory where the top scorer is TE Marcedes Lewis with 17 is illegal, and I plan to use my commissioner powers to correct this miscarriage of Justice.  However I will insist that John Britely's Oppressors still retain their loss as well due to the fact that he snagged LeSean McCoy on waivers on Sunday morning when I am the one who's supposed to have the best player on my favorite team.  Unfortunately for the Oppressors in the best possible week to defeat the Ego got nothing from their team.

Portland Agents Of Fortune (2-3) 109, Culver City Conmen (2-3) 88

In true fantasy football fashion the Conmen have a solid week from many of their starters even with 4 players on BYE, but still manage to run into a team that had an even a better week.  As Brian Reich's Agents managed to put together huge numbers despite starting my least favorite Manning.  Yes I must admit Cooper is my favorite Manning.

Rearden Steelers (5-0) 99, KC Money Barons (0-5) 74

I am considering changing both of my daughters names to Philip Rivers as his consistency this season is the main reason I am 5 - 0, also a timely Falcons pickup before last weeks games helped me quite a bit here.  All I can say to Corey and his Money Barons is the winner of the league last year had a losing record, so anything can happen.  Also to illustrate this I'm 1 - 4 in the fantasy league my brother runs.

AuthorKevin McAllister
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Now working to finally catch up on my fantasy recaps I got through weeks 3 and 4 and am making a personal vow to get week 5 in early this week. Week 3 recap

Virginia Gentlemen 116, Culver City Conmen 109

In week 3 the Conmen put up a solid 109 with good performances from most of their players. Only the Patriots D (1) and Matt Forte (3) underperforming. Unfortunately their opponent the Virginia Gentlemen had great performances particularly 31 from Adrian Peterson who ran all over the Lions. Here the Conmen were handed their first loss. This was the Gentlemen's first win.

Fairport Diehards 106, Connecticut BNS Brawlers 73

A huge game by Anquan Boldin, and great performances by Romo and Chris Johnson vaulted the Diehards to a win over the Brawlers despite their Cedric Benson's big week and Mike Wallace having a huge game down in Tampa. The Brawlers unfortunately left Peyton Hillis on the bench for his huge game not having to share any carries with Jerome Harrison and LeSean McCoy had his worst game of the season so far.

Sedalia Sea Monkeys 65, KC Money Barons 51

The Money Barons continue to have a hard time manufacturing points where Colston, Celek, DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith (Carolina) are all not producing consistent with where they needed to be drafted. Drew Brees is the only bright spot this week as the Barons fall to 0 - 3. The Sea Monkeys get a huge game from Dustin Keller and manage to scrape together enough points to top the Barons bringing them to 1- 2.

GeekPress Generals 114, Portland Agents Of Fortune 66

The Generals put up big performances from Collie, Mendenhall, Rogers and the Steelers Defense to post huge numbers in week 3, which was more than enough to top the Agents of Fortune who aside from Michael Vick and Steven Jackson couldn't get anyone else in double digits. The pair of Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitz who strike fear in the heart of fantasy opponents continue to frustrate.

Washington Oppressors 75, Philadelphia Freeloaders 59

The Oppressors had solid performances from Turner, Charles, Bowe and Cutler riding the Chiefs 3 - 0 record and overcoming a bad outing by their Bucs defense to their first win of the season. The Freeloaders who grabbed the Chiefs defense and were rewarded by a good game were hurt by their reliance on the Houston passing game and Schaub, Walter and Andre Johnson that didn't post big numbers this week.

Rearden Steelers 105, Dr. Ego Spengler 92

In a high scoring matchup the Steelers got good performances from Rivers, Maclin, Bradshaw and their newly added Cardinals D, to offset strong performances from Peyton, LT and DeSean Jackson. Luckily the Chiefs were able to hold Frank Gore down to 14 points and help the Steelers to their 3 - 0 record and hand Dr. Spengler his only loss.

Additionally the Steelers are 3 - 0 against doctors this season.

Week 4 The First week of byes, which leads to all sorts of scarcity and fun in trying to decide who to start or pickup.

GeekPress Generals (3 - 1) 87, Culver City Conmen (2 - 2) 79

In week 4 the Conmen had a solid performance from their Defense but put up goose-eggs from the Moss tandem at WR as Washington had success running on my Eagles and had no reason to even look at Santana and Randy was on the outs in New England. Two zeros in a line up when playing a consistently solid GeekPress Generals usual spells disaster and this week it made the Conmen fall to 2 and 2.

Philadelphia Freeloaders (2 - 2) 66, Fairport Diehards (2- 2) 57

Oddly the second game of the week where a team posted nil from the wide receivers, but in this case they managed to win as the Freeloaders got solid performances from Mike Tolbert, Matt Schaub and Zack Miller. And the Diehards were only able to get double-digit points from Flacco and Ryan Matthews as Denver was able to hold Chris Johnson to only 4 points

Virginia Gentlemen (2 - 2) 106, Connecticut BNS Brawlers (2 - 2) 74

And you can tell it's a bye week as yet another team manages to post a pair of zeroes, but even more impressively the Gentlemen still manage to put out 106 points as they are the top scorer this week. Helped by a combined 56 points from Antonio Gates and Arian Foster (who took 1 quarter off for missing a team meeting). The Brawlers who did have some solid performances from Carson Palmer and Peyton Hillis but also had the misfortune of running into the 2nd highest scoring team in the league.

Sedalia Sea Monkeys (2 - 2) 90, Washington Oppressors (1 - 3) 46

The Sea Monkeys continue to get good performances from Dustin Keller and finally their other players posted some solid numbers as well as they finally hit on a QB that was going to give solid numbers as Sanchez put up 14 and Reggie Wayne and Joseph Addai turned in good weeks. The Oppressors hurt by byes and missed updating their lineup and started the out Pierre Thomas and Shiancoe on a bye only managed 46 points and Jay Cutler was absolutely manhandled by the Giants posting a -3.

Dr. Ego Spengler (3 - 1) 76, KC Money Baroons (0 - 4) 70

Spengler riding a huge game by LT against the Bills was able to hang on for a 6 point victory over the Money Barons who were hurt by an oddly ineffective Drew Brees at home against the Panthers and Steve Smith who went out with an injury.

Rearden Steelers (4- 0) 92, Portland Agents Of Fortune (1 - 3) 63

MJD finally put up some big numbers to justify his pick at #3 overall, and got consistently good numbers from Philip Rivers and Roddy White putting together another solid game to go to 4 - 0. The Agents of Fortune got a huge game from Calvin Johnson but Vick going out with an injury held him to two points and Mike Sims-Walker continues to disappoint with a 0 point week.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Due to working past 2 AM two times in the past week, really throwing off my sleeping schedule not to mention the impact such things have on my family life my recreation time was severely impacted.  But I managed to stay focused and put out a recap before week 3 got underway (barely). Rearden Steelers 86 GeekPress Generals 84

In the closest game of the week the Steelers got strong performances from Philip Rivers and Roddy White for the second straight week and are concerned about MJD who managed only 2 points and 12 for the season.  The Generals got solid performances from most players although the Rodgers to Jennings combo has yet to really pay off.  This came down to the Sunday night matchup between New York and Indianapolis, where both Dallas Clark and Austin Collie scored TDs for the Generals but it wasn't enough to overcome Ahmad Bradshaw's points helped by a Brandon Jacobs benching for an awful run followed by a temper tantrum where his helmet ended up in the crowd.

Dr. Ego Spengler 90 Sedalia Sea Monkeys 64

While the Sea Monkeys got many solid performances, they had no outstanding performances and are having a real problem at Quarterback with Kolb injured and now benched in favor of Vick and Garrard having a very rough game at San Diego.  The good Doctor Spengler got huge games from from Gore, Manning and DeSean Jackson which offset some lesser performances by the rest of his squad putting him over the top.

Portland AgentsOfFortune 98 Virginia Gentlemen 92

In a close matchup this week the Gentlemen had good numbers across the board hurt by poor QB play from the veteran Favre who is finally showing his age against an underrated Miami Defense.  Unfortunately the Gentlemen this week's third highest scorer had the misfortune to face the AgentsOfFortune who were this weeks second highest scorer.  Helped by my favorite team, the Eagles, who are apparently unable to tackle anyone when Stewart Bradley is off the field which gave Jahvid Best a huge 40 point week. Also cashing in on that Eagles v. Lions game Calvin Johnson finally scored a TD that counted helping the Agents to a big win.

Philadelphia Freeloaders 106 KC Money Barons 42

The Freeloaders rode Houston's massive game against the Redskin's where Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson combined for 50 points.  Also worthy of note is the Freeloaders had Kevin Walter on the Bench who also had a giant game and those three players combined would have been enough to beat 4 other starting lineups this week.  The Money Barons had the game that nightmare game that every fantasy owner can count on, where nothing goes right.  Totaling only 42 points for the week and going into Monday night (with 2 players left) had only 18 points.  They did have a few solid performances and I expect they'll turn it around going forward.

Culver City Conmen 68 Fairport Diehards 54

The Conmen improved to 2 - 0 on the season despite the tough game their patriots had in New York.  Putting together a handful of good performances and Darren McFadden trying to answer critics with a big game was enough to top the Diehards who had a tough week with nobody in the starting lineup finding the end zone and Chris Johnson being held in check by the Pittsburgh defense.

Connecticut BNS Brawlers 83 Washington Oppressors 75

The Brawlers are another team that cashed in on the Eagles-Lions game where LeSean McCoy went off racking up 30 points and making up for a handful of low scoring Bengals in his lineup.  The Oppressors fall to 0 - 2 despite some good performances from Jay Cutler, Dez Bryant and seeing Shiancoe and Pierre Thomas be real workhorses for their teams.


The Steelers were frustrated by their 2 - 0 record on the waiver wire this week being unable to grab Tolbert or the Dolphins Defense due to the waiver priority enjoyed by other savvy owners who snagged these players.  A few teams worked the waiver wire to bolster their teams, I think the top one being Tolbert who looked solid in Ryan Matthew's absence and whoever owned Michael Turner last year will know the dreaded high-ankle sprain is not an exciting injury for a top RB on your team to have.

AuthorKevin McAllister

Tired of ending my workdays wondering what the hell I'd done why I couldn't even manage to get one of the three things on list for the day completed I decided to take action. Much of my career has been in tech startups, particularly companies providing various types of Internet services, so I've dealt with many customer complaints and done quite a bit of troubleshooting and repair.  So on any problem I would quickly push aside emotional evaluations or irrelevant details to get to and repair the root of the matter.  So when I finally recognized that some of my project completion issues were a problem like any other to be understood and solved by uncovering the relevant data.  I realized I just had to find a way to see exactly what I am doing, because I knew I was doing valuable work for my company, but just mostly not what I had intended at the outset of the day or week.

In my typical fashion I decided I would write a software tool that would be quick and easy to enter tasks, what job that task was related to and how long I'd spent on the task.  Then I realized I don't have time to do my job every day let alone write some other tool, and this seems like one of those tools that some smart web 2.0 style kids would have built ages ago.  So I Googled time tracking and came up with  It was everything I wanted, from very quick task entry, pie charts showing percentage of time on each project and for my purposes it was free, as I'm not trying to use it to bill clients.

I've been using it now consistently for 3 weeks.  I decided for "Project" I wouldn't try to track my time on projects in the GTD style, but rather against what David Allen calls your Area's of Responsibility, or in other words the big bullet points in your job description.  After 3 weeks I have 14 different "Projects" on the list and an able to see at a glance where I'm choosing to spend my time.  It has helped me emotionally in seeing that these things are necessary for accomplishing my job, and to be able to block out time for areas that need extra attention, and to know that means that other slices of the pie will suffer and I must account for that.  Also for giving me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and a way to sum up what I've done.

Also it's a great tool for driving conversations with my employer.  "Hey, I'm the only person in the company working on X, that means if you want me to do more of it or move it faster you'll need to help me obtain resources or reset expectations for W, Y and Z."

As far as using it, I've not spent more than 15 minutes in a day on it.  I've tried before to track my tasks but have always failed.  Knowing that I went in determined to record only essentials but get a complete picture of the day.  So I don't record every mundane task but will record something as small as 10 minutes if it's on a job that I think will add up over time.  So I'll typically record somewhere between 5 and 20 tasks on it in a day and be able to then get the perspective I need on my work to make longer range plans and decisions.

AuthorKevin McAllister